The tube is watching you: Viewers fall victim to the luxury life seen on TV
by Gülşah Dark
ISTANBULFeb 20, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Gülşah Dark
Feb 20, 2016 12:00 am
Turkish TV series are increasingly used as a means to normalize consumerism with a so-called ideal world causing fractures in society. The luxury life seen on TV is a big part of spreading the ethos of consumerism while cheating viewers
It was three years ago when a Greek colleague in my post-graduate class asked me the following question: "Do many people in Turkey really live in those luxury houses that appear in Turkish television series?" "Of course not," I said, looking slightly taken aback by the question. Well, she went on to talk about these flamboyant houses as well as praising the female actors in stylish clothes. This was a very nice and positive compliment, but made me consider how a television series represents Turkish society to foreign viewers, notably those who watch them out of curiosity in different countries. Another question raised is: Why have certain elements like luxurious lifestyle, elegantly-furnished mansions with sparkling pools and seaside views, expensive cars and wealthy family characters including women in eye-catching dresses and lavish accessories become a routine part of Turkish television series?
The life of luxury first came to the forefront in the television series of the mid-1990s, representing the fragment of Turkish society that had become rich after an export-oriented economic model adopted in the 1980s. In other words, they described the upper-middle class. After the 2000s, however, such projections have become a kind of standardization to the full extent as local content is available, and TV producers have begun to prioritize the demand of viewers much more. The endless rivalry for TV ratings and the lack of innovative scenarios have also contributed to this process, as networks continuously broadcast television series based upon the same plots and -- more importantly -- in similar settings that depict rich families, children going to school in luxury cars and parents spending their days volleying between a multi-partnering company and a mansion with a well-equipped servant team. Women generally appear on a balcony in the morning with a cup of fresh orange juice, gazing about in silky morning gowns. These scenes would be perfectly fine, if similar editions did not come up in such a rapid way. Notably, one good-quality TV series; ATV's "Bir İstanbul Masalı" (A Tale of Istanbul), centers around two rich brothers and a poor man's daughter, and grabbed keen interest in the early 2000s, despite bringing nothing more than the well-known love story between a poor girl and a rich boy to the fore.
While zapping on TV, each channel invites viewers to enter the "ideal" world; appealing mostly to those who do not have the chance to experience it. Also, these programs are always found on free channels, if you do not count the electricity and satellite television provider costs.
Fatmanur Altun of Marmara University's Sociology Department told Daily Sabah that television series have inherited material indicators, making them a direct and vital part of the advertising industry. "Product placement is commonly seen in television series. The clothing, accessories and setting are chosen to meet promotional interests. Some viewers can have them, while others cannot," she continued. It is true that some women spend hours trying to find the dress or a home item they have seen on television or the Internet, while some simply spend their time posting comments on the social media accounts of these television series. Altun said that Turkish television series are a prime example of the marketing industry, which means the set is commercialized. Since the early ages, the luxury life we view on television has taught viewers how to consume.Altun further stressed that ideal characters in television series introduce viewers to a fictional world while attempting to discipline the society. "TV series are trying to educate new generations, while normalizing practices that cause social fractures," she went on to say, stressing that they encourage viewers to recognize certain things as habit -such as the celebration of St. Valentine's Day or wedding anniversaries. "Many TV series are shown on prime-time. All families watch them regardless of conservative or non-conservative affiliations, following them blindly," she continued. "During the Tanzimat-era, certain novels supported Western-style life, while others introduced a satirical view such as "Araba Sevdası," (The Love for Surrey), by Recaizade Mahmud Ekrem. I believe there is a serious lack of criticism for TV series now," she said. Altun also said that parents leave their children in front of the TV while they are busy with something else, exposing their children to televised content that may negatively influence them. "Children and young people consider some practices like cheating or unlawful relationships as the norm, but these 'norms' do not exist in our social values," she said.
It is no secret that television is all about marketing and has spread the ethos of consumerism around the world; not only in Turkey, but other countries like the U.S., since the mid-20th century. Television series have also normalized consumerism by continuously monitoring consumer views and understanding their habits through numerous marketing surveys despite a large part of viewers being unaware of this. The next time you are watching television, remember that it is watching you as well and exerting every effort to make you become a part of the tube market driven by advertising.